Board of Supervisors Poised to Reject New Jail

After weeks of controversy and a high stakes game of legislative musical chairs set off by the election of Supervisor Aaron Peskin, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will vote today on a package of legislation to fund the construction of a new jail, er “rehabilitation detention facility.” And unless something significant changes in the next four hours, it looks like the proposal is going down. 

[jump] Supervisors Jane Kim, David Campos, John Avalos, and Eric Mar have long opposed the project, which would be funded with an $80 million state grant and $215 million in bonds (with debt service, the total cost would be $300 million). Yesterday, Supervisor London Breed joined the opposition at a rally outside City Hall, the San Francisco Examiner reports

“We are not going to support a stand alone prison to continue to lock up African Americans and Latinos in this city,” Breed said. We are not going to continue to lock up people who have mental illness and clearly need to be treated. We are not going to continue to lock up people who have substance abuse problems that need the kind of treatment that only a facility that specializes in those kinds of problems offer. We need to be better.”

56 percent of the occupants of San Francisco county jails are black, despite African Americans making up just 5.8 percent of the city's population. 

Supervisor Malia Cohen did not appear at the rally, but she told the Examiner, “I’m voting against the jail,” by text yesterday, giving the opposition the six votes they need to defeat the Mayor's proposal. Possible no votes from Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Norman Yee — still undecided — could run up the score. 

As SF Weekly has reported, another twist in the debate over how and where to house San Francisco's inmates will play out tomorrow in federal court. That's when Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers will consider whether or not to grant a preliminary injunction in the lawsuit that aims to abolish money jail in San Francisco County Jails. 

About 85 percent of San Francisco County Jail inmates are being held pre-trial, and about half of them have been assigned a cash bail amount by a judge — meaning a judge has ruled it's safe for them to be released — but can't afford to pay it. The lawsuit will play out over the next several months, but if the preliminary injunction is approved, the number of beds required by the county jail system could radically decline. 

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